Do Bees Make Hives In The Ground? (Explained)

When you think about bees you probably think about the bees who live in prominent hives above ground or on trees. 

Those are the most common kinds of bees however there are over 20,000 species of bees in the world with various characteristics and patterns of living. 

Bees have been known to make hives in the ground. A hive in the ground will help them forage for food easily and also helps protect the queen and the worker from danger

Some bees make their hives in the ground and as such if you are not careful, they could sting when you come too close to their abode.

It is important you know what kind of bees live in the ground, how to know their hives and not get stung and how to get rid of them, this article will outline how all these.

Can Bees Build Hives Underground

Do Bees Make Hives In The Ground

A group of bees known as the ground bees are known for building their hives underground.

They make their homes in the soil or abandoned homes of rodents under the ground. 

The different species of ground bees have various characteristics and different social structures. 

The ground bees also gather nectar and pollen. They pollinate a variety of flowers and crops and farmers usually raise them for this important purpose.

Instead of living in one hive like their aboveground cousins however, ground bees make burrows in the soil and only one female bee digs a burrow at a time.

They are less social and tend to have semi-social clusters. Ground bees sizes range in size from ½ inch to ¾. Their colors also include blue, red, copper and green. 

Related: Here is an article I wrote on how far do bees forage?

What Kind Of Bees Live In The Ground And Sting

Ground bees have different species and they include:

Bumblebees

Bumble bees are the most common and social of the ground bees. You can recognize them by their black and yellow plumage with furry underbellies. 

A large bumble bee can have a population of close to 400 bees and the queen bee is helped by the drones and female worker bees.

Bumble bees also produce unlike other ground bees and typically mind their business and are non-aggressive. 

Miner/Digger bees

These types of bees are small in size. They have bright stripes and you can usually recognize them by their metallic-greenish colors. 

Their females build burrows and seal one egg into each burrow with lots of pollen. The eggs will remain buried and survive on the pollen till the next spring when they emerge as adults.

Leafcutting bees

Leafcutter bees are known for making their homes in softwood or rotted wood. The female bees each cut off leaf pieces to use as a burrow at their hive site. 

Leafcutters collect pollen and as such farmers encourage their growth for crop production purposes.

Some of the plants leafcutter bees use in lining their burrows include ash plants, creepers, lilac and rose.

Alkali bees

Alkali bees love building their nests in salty soil hence the name. They are smaller than honey bees and have yellow stripes and a black abdomen

Alkali female bees each have a network of tunnels in her burrow and there are usually thousands of burrows in a hive depending on the availability of the salty earth.

This species of bees are good for crops in the pea family as they help to pollinate them where other bees are not and alfalfa and other pea farmers always find a way to attract them as they can pollinate a lot of flowers within a short period.

Sweat bees

Sweat bees are a little different from other species of bees as they come in different colors ranging from dull black, metallic blue, purple to green. 

Some sweat bees are social while some are semi-social or solitary. Unlike other bee species who carry pollen in their abdomens, sweat bees carry theirs on their back legs. 

The female bees fill their burrows with eggs, pollen and nectar and depending on the type, the larvae may emerge quickly or remain buried in the burrow till after winter.

All ground bees have stingers and are capable of stinging but they do not sting unless provoked or manhandled.

Also check out this article I wrote on do bees have fur?

How Do You Get Rid Of Bees In The Ground

Due to their usefulness as pollinators, ground bees should not be killed off carelessly.

If they are in large numbers and you want to get rid of them there are several ways you can do so without causing harm to them. 

  • Sprinkle Cinnamon

Bees do not like cinnamon and sprinkling it around their hive area and over the yard will drive them away.

  • Wet The Ground Regularly

Another easy way to get rid of ground bees is to wet the soil regularly. Because ground bees like dry soils for their nests, immediately when they feel wet soil they’ll move their nests away.

  • Block Hive Holes

Blocking the nesting holes of ground bees stops them from coming back because they won’t be able to reach the burrows to lay their eggs. Once they realize they can’t access the underground tunnels they’ll stop coming around your hive. You can block the holes by placing bricks or other heavy stuff on them.

  • Vinegar Spray

Spreading a vinegar spray around the area the bees are in will make them move as bees do not like the pungent smell of vinegar and it is harmful to them.

  • Call a Beekeeper

Calling professional beekeepers to help you get rid of the ground bees is one of the best options as they will carefully take the bees out without causing harm to them.

If you do notice ground bees in your yard, killing them is not the best option and you can try those natural methods outlined above.

How Deep Are Underground Bee Hives

Ground bees usually make their hives underground. They burrow the soil to make a network of tunnels where they brood their eggs and larvae.

Female bees each dig out the burrows where they will be breeding their eggs and then lay the eggs in the burrows with pollen. 

Underground bee hives are usually between 6-16 inches long, however if the bees are using a pre-existing nest it might extend a number of feet below the ground.  

Does Vinegar Kill Ground Bees

Vinegar is a popular method homeowners use to get rid of bees and this includes ground bees.

Vinegar affects bees by rendering them unable to fly and suffocates them leading to their deaths within a few short minutes.

Vinegar and water spray is a method used to get rid of any sort of bees.

It is a natural and effective method that can get the bees away especially when they are becoming a nuisance in your yard.

If you do not want to kill the ground bees, you can simply spray the vinegar mixture around your hard and close to the bee holes. 

Remember to not spray the mixture directly onto the bees as that will kill them almost instantly.

How Long Do Ground Bees Stay

Ground bees typically do not stay around for long. If you feel like they are a nuisance to your yard, a little patience might be good since the little guys are beneficial to the environment.

They use their underground nests for about 4-6 weeks then they relocate to another place for the rest of the year.

Usually ground bees come out during spring as this is the period they carry out nesting activities. 

If you do not want ground bees to come back around your yard, simply water your lawn regularly once it’s spring time as the females prefer dry soil for their nests. Wet soil puts them off.

How Dangerous Are Ground Bees

Ground bees can sting like most other bees however they are generally docile and go about their business. 

The most dangerous problems you can get from them is damage to your property.

Ground bees can also be dangerous to people who are allergic to bee stings and children who love playing around in the yard.

But other than that the bees cause little problems and their burrowing even helps the soil as it opens up the soil to allow water and air to penetrate easily. 

You can recognize their hives once you see a number of bees buzzing above ground so it’s easy for you to avoid them. 

If you do feel they are a nuisance though there are natural ways to get rid of bees without killing them and you can also call professional beekeepers to take them away.

Can You Drown Ground Bees

It is possible to drown ground bees and other insects who make their homes in the ground.

Even though bees are beneficial insects, some homeowners might see them as a nuisance to their yards or lawns.

To drown a ground bee hive, you need a piece of cloth to cover the hole and a mixture of soap and water.

Cover the hole properly with the cloth, then make a cut in the cloth to allow the water to flow in. You can hold down the cloth with pins to stop them flying out.

Pour some soap into the hole through the cut in the cloth, then pour in about a gallon of water after.

The soap will impede the ability of the bees to fly and the water will drown out the hive.

Conclusion

Ground bees have been established to be beneficial to our ecosystem and the ones around us should be preserved because of the declining bee population.

Underground bees are more amenable than their above ground counterparts. They are generally less aggressive and as such are less dangerous. 

As a beekeeper, a farmer or a homeowner these bees have their uses and it is important that you keep them safe and get the best out of them.

Written by Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books

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